The regular season Subway Series has largely been a dark, looming cloud for the Mets and their fans—albeit one punctuated with brief, shining outlets of joy. For every Dave Mlicki shutout, Matt Franco pinch hit, Dae-Sung Koo slide, and Shawn Estes home run off of Roger Clemens, it can feel as if there are more Luis Castillo dropped pop-ups, six-game season sweeps, and Shawn Estes missing Roger Clemens’s backside moments—because there unfortunately usually are. The Yankees enter this series with a 66-46 record against the Mets as the Subway Series enters its 21st season.
Expecting the expected in the Subway Series can be a fool’s errand, but based on the 2018 season thus far—and especially early results—one could reasonably expect the Yankees to fatten up that record this weekend. New York’s American League franchise enters this series with the best winning percentage in baseball (.690, thanks to a 40-18 record), the third best run differential in the game (+97), and on a recent roll, winning eight of their last 10 games.
The Yankees are led by their deep, impressive, imposing offense, ranking second in baseball this season with their 327 runs scored. The lineup is still paced by last year’s MVP runner-up Aaron Judge. Judge is not far off his epic 2017 pace this season, posting a 3.0 fWAR thanks in part to 17 home runs and a .274/.401/.566 slash line thus far.
In the rich-get-richer department, rookies Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres have both impressed, posting a 136 wRC+ and and 142 wRC+, respectively. Big offseason acquisition Giancarlo Stanton has struggled by his standards, with a 0.29 BB/K ratio well off of his career norm of 0.42, but has still managed 14 home runs with a .242 ISO. Of course, his 35 career home runs versus the Mets and excellent career numbers against Jacob deGrom (1.480 OPS against) and Steven Matz (1.786 OPS against) mean that a breakout weekend would not be entirely unexpected.
Coming into the series, Andujar (.378 batting average, two home runs) and Brett Gardner (.362, three home runs) are particularly hot for the Yankees over the last two weeks. On the mound, Luis Severino has continued his stellar work leading the rotation, going 2-0 over his last three starts, striking out 26 in 21 innings, while the strong bullpen led by Aroldis Chapman and Chad Green continues to be a force.
Meanwhile, many Mets fans will be commuting into this series not from New York City, but rather from their old familiar home of Panic City. The Mets will enter Friday’s series opener with a 27-32 record, having dropped the first six games of this homestand, and with a clear wish to go back in time—presumably all the way to the halcyon days of mid-April, when the team was 11-1.
The Mets struggles of late clearly lie on the slumping shoulders of their offense. The team has mustered only seven runs over that six-game losing streak, with no regular over that stretch posting a batting average higher than Zack Wheeler’s .250, while only recent reclamation project Jose Bautista has posted a wRC+ over 61 with his 144 wRC+. Even recent bright spot Brandon Nimmo has endured his first sustained slump of the season, with one hit, two walks, and seven strikeouts over his last 16 plate appearances.
Meanwhile, the pitching has done its best to keep the team in games, as the staff’s fWAR over the losing streak is 1.4, tied for third in MLB with the Yankees over that short sample size. The starters—led by the impeccable Jacob deGrom and some encouraging improvements from Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler—have been going deeper and doing their part to keep these games competitive. A bullpen hoping to be buoyed by the return of Anthony Swarzak from injury learned just before the start of the series that closer Jeurys Familia would be placed on the disabled list before the start of this series, with Jacob Rhame coming up to take his place in the pen.
In any event, it will be an event—Citi Field should be packed and loud this weekend—hopefully not for the last time in 2018.
Friday, June 8: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Jacob deGrom, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Tanaka (2018): 67.2 IP, 65 K, 18 BB, 15 HR, 4.79 ERA, 5.05 FIP, 1.14 WHIP
Tanaka’s reliance on his offspeed pitches has unbelievably grown even larger this year, as the crafty righty has thrown his fastball a career-low 27.1% of the time this year thus far. While he does his best to limit damage with a reasonable (though career-high) 2.39 BB/9 rate, Tanaka can fall victim to the longball—he has managed to not give up a home run in only two of 12 starts this season.
deGrom (2018): 72.1 IP, 98 K, 21 BB, 3 HR, 1.49 ERA, 1.94 FIP, 1.04 WHIP
In a Max Scherzer-less world, Jacob deGrom would not be remiss in starting to make a little room on his mantle for some post-season hardware. His 3.0 fWAR through this point in the season trails only Scherzer’s 3.8 mark in the National League. deGrom has given up a scant three runs over his last 47.1 innings, going 2-0 over those eight appearances thanks to bullpen failures and the team’s offensive ineptitude.
Saturday, May 25: Domingo German vs. Steven Matz, 7:15 p.m. on SNY
German (2018): 41.1 IP, 44 K, 19 BB, 6 HR, 5.44 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 1.33 WHIP
Winless in ten appearances (4 starts) for the Yankees, the 25 year-old right hander impressed in long relief earlier this season, then no-hit the Indians for six innings in his first start, striking out nine before getting pulled due to pitch count concerns. He has gotten roughed up in several starts since, though his high strikeout rate and pitching arsenal—including an impressive four-seam spin rate of 2,525 rpms and a 95.8 mph fastball average—mean improvement could be in the cards.
Matz (2018): 52.2 IP, 48 K, 23 BB, 9 HR, 3.42 ERA, 5.11 FIP, 1.23 WHIP
After struggling early in the season in working deep into games, Matz has looked sharper over his last three starts, allowing only two runs over 16 innings in his last three starts (including an injury-abbreviated one in Atlanta), shaving a full run off of his ERA in the process. Matz hasn’t allowed a home run over that period, although his walk rate is still a bit troubling (3.93 BB/9 for the season).
Sunday, June 10: Noah Syndergaard vs. Luis Severino, 8:10 p.m. on ESPN
Syndergaard (2018): 64.2 IP, 76 K, 13 BB, 5 HR, 3.06 ERA, 2.56 FIP, 1.18 WHIP
The Mets are aiming for Syndergaard to return from his strained index finger ligament that has had him on the disabled list since May 26. Hopefully the Mets are not rushing back their young co-ace for this prime-time match-up talent with fellow young fireballer Luis Severino. Before his injury, Syndergaard continued to rack up strikeouts, with a 10.58 K/9 rate.
Severino (2018): 86 IP, 102 K, 21 BB, 4 HR, 2.20 ERA, 1.15 FIP, 0.93 WHIP
In a world without two-fifths of the Astros starting rotation, Luis Severino might be making room on his mantle for some post-season hardware. Severino has improved upon his numbers across the board from his 2017 breakout season, decreasing his walk rate slightly (2.20 BB/9) and his home run rate precipitously 0.42 HR/9). Unlike Jacob deGrom, Severino would not need to worry about old-school voters dismissing his low win total, as he has already recorded nine victories over his 13 starts.
Prediction: Yankees take two out of three.
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Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning and the Mets sweep!
Mets surprise and take two out of three games.
Jacob or Noah help us avoid a sweep.
Three wins for the Yankees, endless Bronx Cheers for the Mets.
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